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Exile on East 42nd Street

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Britain’s Baroness Glenys Kinnock. Photograph: Reuters

The annual United Nations Security Council elections were held on October 18th, with South Korea receiving a resounding endorsement for the seat allotted to the Asia-Pacific at the expense of Bhutan and Cambodia.

Two days previously, Britain’s Baroness Glenys Kinnock penned Cambodia’s Brazen UN Bid, an op-ed piece for the New York Times arguing the country had no right to sit on the council with its track record of land concessions, deforestation and human rights abuses.*

The same day, Cambodia’s ambassador to the UK invoked the previous day’s royal death in an admonishing letter to the NYT editor: “One would have hoped the New York Times might have shown greater respect and sensitivity than to publish Baroness Glenys Kinnock’s diatribe… just hours after the death was announced of the country’s much-loved former king,” wrote Ambassador Hor Nambora.

The following Monday, the Post published an opinion piece by Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuoy Kong, lambasting Kinnock for her role on the advisory board of Global Witness, an NGO which has laboured under a fraught relationship with the Cambodian government since it began operations in the country 17 years ago.

“Look at your own society,” Kuoy Kong intoned. “Is it poverty-free? I doubt it. You should know, too, that the billions of dollars of aid that flowed into Cambodia went, for the most part, to feed the army of NGOs, including the one whose advisory board you sit on while enjoying its perks and writing this article on its behalf on your comfortable sofa in London as you drink a cappuccino, if not a martini.”

The Baroness’s husband is Neil Kinnock, best remembered for the infamous Sun headline “Will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights,” a warning about the potential consequences of a Labour victory in the 1992 election (for which the former Labour Party leader blamed his subsequent defeat) and Rupert Murdoch sealed his reputation as an impartial and upstanding media proprietor.

As such, the Kinnock family probably had enough fortitude to withstand the invective that followed. Indeed, the Baroness took to Twitter on Tuesday to shrug off Kuoy Kong’s criticisms.

Unfortunately, owing to the internet’s perennial inability to convey emphasis and with a bit of mangled syntax, the tweet reads somewhat like an apologia: “They say it is ‘biased exaggerated and full of lies.’ The truth hurts!” It’s enough to feel a tinge of sorrow that the only wars fought with words as weapons are diplomatic ones, otherwise Cambodia would be permanently annexing the lands around Tonle Thames as we speak.

* You know your country must really be doing something wrong if Suharto’s Indonesia, Gaddafi’s Libya, Emergency-era India and Argentina under the junta were more considered more worthy of a spot on the UNSC.



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